Kevin Durant is a proven winner.
I do not care what you say about his move to the Golden State Warriors or that the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Warriors in 2016. Or his struggles to come up short with the Oklahoma City Thunder or the high-powered Brooklyn Nets the past few years.
Durant is more than capable of contributing to a winning team at a championship-caliber level. His very presence turns any team into a title contender.
All that being said, the 33-year-old’s tenure in Brooklyn has shall we say, not gone according to plan. He lost both of his All-Star teammates in two years, did not make the Eastern Conference Finals or win a ring. All of those achievements seemed very attainable at the start of what people called the best big three since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Now that he has requested a trade from the Nets, teams across the league are reportedly calling Sean Marks to pry the disgruntled star away. The Nets so far seem to be patiently seeking offers and not rushing into a deal as the bulk of free agency starts to die down.
It will not be that easy to make a deal.
Besides the fact it would take a monumental package to land Durant (something more valuable than the Rudy Gobert trade it would appear), fit within a team’s blueprint is also essential.
Here’s where the Magic come into the picture, or rather, do not come into the picture.
Kevin Durant is still one of the best players in the entire league and should have teams lining up to acquire him. But it will take a certain team and situation to get him. And the Orlando Magic are not that team.
While the newly drafted number one draft pick, Paolo Banchero seems to want Durant to join him in Orlando, it is not quite as easy as posting to your Instagram story.
As Richard Jefferson joked in response, it would probably cost Paolo Banchero for the Nets even to entertain a trade with the Magic. That is not happening after all the effort Orlando went into picking Banchero.
The name of the game for the Magic is rebuilding. In fact, they seem to be following a similar trajectory as the Memphis Grizzlies, just a few years behind. Memphis has drafted each of its top stars including Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr.. Similarly, the Magic have a foundation of Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs (or Jonathan Isaac, depending where you stand on him).
Anything can happen in the NBA, as evidenced by the Gobert trade. But trading for Durant would alter that trajectory, the trajectory that has been so successful for the Grizzlies.
Every team should want Durant, do not get that part wrong. He is that good as a player. But the cost is still prohibitive. And Durant expects to have a readymade champion when he arrives — thus the reported focus on the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat.
There is no doubt that if the Magic traded for Durant, they would win more games, heck, they would almost assuredly be in the playoffs at a minimum.
But that should not be the reason to pull the trigger. Just making the playoffs is not the goal and it would take more time to rebuild around Durant to reach the ultimate goal — winning a championship.
That should be the reason why Jeff Weltman does not pull the trigger. This just is not the right time to make a deal.
ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski says the Brooklyn Nets “think this should look like one of the biggest trade returns in league history.”
That is to be expected. That also means that any team that wants to trade for Durant or ends up doing so would have to fork over its future in players and picks.
Disregarding the matching salary, the young team would have to most likely forfeit any combination of promising youngsters in Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Paolo Banchero and Jonathan Isaac.
The Magic would also have to hand over at least four first-round draft picks varying in protection status (most likely at least one unprotected). Adding the picks would severely limit any potential for future trades or any insurance just in case the Durant era fails — just as the Brooklyn Nets’ experiment did (now all of the Nets’ picks belong to the Houston Rockets).
It is a steep price to pay and a price that would dismantle all the progress the Magic have made in the past two years. The remaining roster would have to be filled with veterans or role players on small contracts and the team would be “forced” to contend, otherwise why trade for Durant?
It is an unsavory combo of draft picks and recent draftees that would place heavy pressure on a team that has thus thrived in a low-pressure system.
It is not worth it to trade for Durant if you are not contending for a championship or have hopes of contending within the next 1-3 years, both of which the Magic are not doing.
Adding to it, Kevin Durant is 33 years old. He also has four years left on his current contract.
The way it is constructed, Durant would make $53 million during the 2026 season which would place him at 36. Even for Durant, that is a lot of money.
In order to inherit that contract, the Magic would need to send over several players, which could include Gary Harris, Jonathan Isaac/Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz or even Paolo Banchero. All four are crucial to the Magic’s long-term and short-term success.
And let’s be completely honest with ourselves, the Magic are not, at least right now, one of Durant’s top destinations.
If the Nets were to trade Durant to the Magic, which they have every right to do, Durant would most likely feel like it is not the best place for him to finish out his prime.
This year Durant is making $42-million and even that makes him one of the highest-paid players in the league. This year’s earnings alone should deter the Magic and honestly, most teams in the league from taking him on.
That kind of a contract is only worth it if the team is winning a title. Durant gets a team pretty far along that path. But clearly, he is not going to do it alone.
The Magic would need to win now. It is as simple as that.
If for whatever reason, this trade did end up happening, the amount the organization would have to give up would not be worth building for another two years. Those two years are valuable seasons that never come back. This shortens the timeline extensively.
The amount of pieces that would need to come into place for the team to be a title contender is frankly unrealistic. None of the Magic’s current personnel have any real playoff experience let alone the experience of playing with such talent. It would take adjusting and a slew of incredibly intelligent trades and signings to make the team a player in the East.
Sure, this would bring some wild games with Durant in blue but at the end of the day, are two seasons of mediocrity worth what follows? Time and time again, we have seen teams struggle to bounce back after a superstar leaves.
It would be all worth it if the team won just one title. But it would leave a wake of devastation in its path — as it is doing to the Nets now as they try to find a way to remain competitive since they do not have draft picks waiting for them.
Overall, making a trade for Durant is not worth it and it seems like as of now, the front office thinks the same (who really knows though). While some may disagree and say that this is a unique opportunity that may never show itself again, I would say otherwise.
There will always be stars looking for new homes, it just so happens that the Magic may have drafted one of those stars this past draft.
Let us not forget the team also has 5-6 young players who other teams would trade for in an instant. This, in fact, having this very team, is a unique opportunity that may never show itself again.